12 November 2014


Winter came on quick here in Columbia this week. I love it. When it gets cold I get to break out the layers. The layering is course the key to successful winter bicycle commuting.
This is from a few warmer months back. We got a new Aldi's in Columbia
 including a bicycle rack. The rack is not so useful since whoever installed it
mounted the thing about six inches from the front wall of the store.
This limits the racks usefulness when trying to use it as intended.

Suddenly, the streets are less full of other two-wheelers. The fair-weather riders have hopped back in their cars or quit their jobs and stay home now and await the unemployment checks to trickle in. I am glad to see other bicycle commuters. For a few weeks there up until this week there was a proliferation of bike commuters. We were everywhere. On streets, in bike lanes and on sidewalks doing our thing.

Then it got cold. It was 28 degrees on my way to work this morning. I saw no other bicycle commuters in the morning or the afternoon, which is rare. What is holding up in the cold are the bus riders. Since Columbia rejiggered the City bus routes, the whole system seems to work better for my household and the folks who ride the bus and get on along my one-and-a-half mile daily one-way work commute. They are not deterred by a little frost but perhaps bus riders lack the transportation choice that I am so well-endowed with.

A few years ago I wrote a post on this blog about how-to cold weather bicycle commute and got a snotty comment from a bicyclist in Alaska who dressed me down and said that a Missourian knows nothing about cold weather riding. I was deterred. This post contains no advice which is par for the course. What this post does contain is a high degree of satisfaction that I have switched over my summer for winter clothes, found the gloves and hats that work for the ride and am continuing my bicycle commute each and every weekday (and some weekend days, thank you) to my gig.

See you in the streets.

02 August 2014

24 July 2014

Some vegetables from the garden

When I am not bicycling or walking or working or glued to MeTV*, I garden.

Here are some of the tomatoes and cucumbers I recently harvested. 

*That's a joke.

15 July 2014

Those clouds

Currently it's 64 degrees with scattered clouds over downtown Columbia.

13 July 2014

Missouri River float: Mokane to Hermann

Bicycling is fun. So are other activities. Like floating. Yesterday, a pair of friends and I floated the Missouri River from Mokane to Hermann, Missouri. We thought it would take two days. Since the river was up and there were no sandbars to stop and play on, we cruised along and covered 29 miles in about eight hours.

My float companions: John, Mike and Smoky

Still smiling at the end of the day.

Missouri River mud

Adrift near Hermann, Missouri

Bicycle commuting: Summer gear

An old friend of mine liked to leave Columbia every summer.She maintained she liked to skip Missouri's annual hot, wet blanket feeling that summers here provide. I get it.

Every summer it seems there comes a point where the temperature has hovered around 90 or more degrees for three weeks with 95% humidity. The air is heavy and moist. Like some soup you didn't order but can't send back. (I'll have The Hotel California soup, please.) Other humans skitter between their air-conditioned automobiles and their air-conditioned offices/homes/grocery stores. In all fairness, the chill of Gerbes on West Ash in Columbia feels mighty nice after a ride across town on a 90 degree July afternoon.

We have standards! Since bicycle commuting is how I commute I am not going to give it up in the summer just because the weather is a little steamy. That said, I have a job where I am in an office setting. My esteemed colleagues expect that I won't arrive looking like I just competed in a cross country meet. For those workdays when the stickiness starts early I pack my work clothes because almost nothing is less fun than spending a day wearing semi-uncomfortable-to-start-with-sweat-soaked-clothes in an air-conditioning office suite.

Maintaining a successful bike commute regimen in the summer months takes a bit of planning. I may spend a few more precious minutes preparing for work but at the end of the day I got a bit of exercise before work and my colleagues can continue to puzzle at my commuting choice.

Must haves. The essential summertime hot weather bicycle commuting gear includes but is not limited to:

  • Bicycle carrier/pannier. You have to have something in which to carry your clothes.
  • A grocery store plastic bag (or two). For storing clothes sweated-up on the way to work.
  • Work clothes gently folded.
  • Work shoes. I have a dedicated work pair of shoes. Birkenstock Londons, thank you.
  • A towel for drying off.
  • A washcloth for, you know, washing yourself.
  • Deodorant (optional)

The changing space. Where you change from your commuting clothes matters. My new office building is so much better suited to post-bike commute changing than was the old building. In Jesse Hall, I had my choice of small bathroom stalls with no space to maneuver or larger stalls with automatic flushers. I have to suspend concern about how gross it may be to set my pannier on a public bathroom floor. My advice: Look first and avoid wet spots. Stalls with hooks for hanging clothes on are golden. Stalls with automatic toilet flushers are best avoided. The most times I ever set off the flusher while changing was six in the basement men's room in Jesse Hall. I am not proud of that.

Modest mouse. If you have your own office in which to discreetly hang up sweaty clothes to dry after changing, well, that's a special thing. If you are like me an you share an office with three colleagues in a decommissioned dorm room, there isn't much extra space available for hanging up post-ride clothes. This is where wicking clothes are best for summer bike commutes. They may smell a bit after hanging our for a work-day in a plastic bag in your pannier but they won't be wet for long once you let them breathe on the ride home.

9 to 5. Getting to work is always a chore for me. There are a myriad of boring reasons. Since hot weather engenders crankiness in me, being comfortable in my work commute clothing important.

04 July 2014

When life gives you flat tires make rubbers!

Zambian-style bicycle rubber
This year my street has witnessed a most extreme series of deconstructions and reconstructions. (It was the best of times it was the worst of times...) Back in 2008, the City Council voted to approve funding 100% of the construction of a sewer replacement project in my 90 year old neighborhood. Great news!

Five years later the project started. Then it got cold as it tends to do in the winter. Me and the neighbors scratched our heads as to why the contractor began work in late November, but I figured the contractor knows more about a lot more about how to do their job than I do. They were chosen not me. (Not-so-relevant aside: The contractor is Aplex, Inc from Linn, Missouri. They are not to be found in any phone book that I get nor do they have any web presence. Neither of those facts matter of course. Aplex has done a great job building two new sewer lines on my street, installing a stormwater drain, building new sidewalks on both sides of the street and building new curbs & gutters. That's what matter, right?)

They have also done a great job stirring up sharp objects that puncture bicycle tires. When the houses on my street got their sewer lines tied into the new main line, the street was eliminated. Not forever. Aplex's crew of strapping lads didn't just dig up a bit of our street. We got a whole new street out of the deal. The aggregate of the ages came up for air before being entombed again under rebar and new cement.

Street closed signs popped up. Cars mostly ignored them and we have had the most peaceful street for the last six months. On my bicycle I did not ignore the street closed signs and that was at my own peril. I have had more flat tires on my bicycle in 2014 than I think I've had in the last decade. I never find anything in the tubes or tire but I usually notice the flat while biking on or near my street.

2014 has been busy. I am getting more into my job at KBIA. Lisa spends more time in school so I have more household duties. Patching bicycle tires was never my strong suit and now with my plate feeling full I am more inclined to buy a new tube rather than struggle to patch a blown tube.

I do try however. I put the popped tube in a bucket of water, find the hole, glue it and patch it but, alas, I get another flat. (To you who think it is something in the wheel or tire, I looked. I have had two flats on both tires in the past six months. Equal opportunity punctures.)

All of a sudden I am swimming in holy tubes as seen below.

While Lisa and I were Peace Corps volunteers in Zambia we observed many Africans riding bicycles. They are much more common than cars but not as common as are pedestrians. Cars there are a luxury item in Zambia and as it turns out in a lot of the world. (I snicker at my neighbors with "We are the 99%" bumper stickers on their cars. The percent of Earthlings who own a car is 9%. Or so says the internet. I digress.)

Zambian bicyclists are cargo haulers. They move people, goats, 50kg bags of nuts, massive quantities of bush-made charcoal and anything else imaginable. To tie goods on they use what is called in the vernacular "a rubber." Condoms in Zambia are called condoms so far as I recall and not rubbers.

To make a bike rubber with your popped tube cut off the valve stem and toss it.

You'll be left with a rubber sheet about six inches across by six of so feet long.

Now cut each piece lengthwise and there you have a pair of the biggest rubber bands you ever did see!

You'll end up with two nice long stretchy rubber bands for turning your bicycle with only a rack into a hauling machine. Of course a cargo bicycle works well for that, too.

Tie a rubber on to your bicycle rack and wrap it around the desired object you wish to haul. I moved a lamp last week on my rack using a rubber. Many other items are possible. It still remains easier to drive a car and most Americans will continue to choose that option. Enjoy your freedoms on this Independence Day 2014!

The nice thing about home-made bike rubbers is they are easily adjustable to corral any reasonable quantity of movable stuff.

Now if we could only do something about the pitifully small bicycle racks available in the USA for bicycles. There were several ways Zambia had it up on America and one clear area was larger, more ample custom-made bicycle racks!

Happy hauling!